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First Lady Promotes Family Literacy Initiatives in West Tennessee

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 | 08:16am

Meets with local educators and volunteers while promoting her READ20 Family Book Club and Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library
NASHVILLE, Tenn. August 8, 2012 – First Lady Crissy Haslam met with educators and Imagination Library volunteers in Lake and Weakley Counties today while promoting her READ20 Family Book Club and Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library. Mrs. Haslam was joined by Theresa Carl, president of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF), the organization responsible for sustaining and growing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee. During a morning stop at Lake County High School in Tiptonville and a luncheon at the C.E. Weldon Public Library in Martin, the pair spoke with community stakeholders about the importance of family reading time for young children.

The First Lady launched her READ20 Family Book Club earlier this summer. The initiative highlights the importance of reading and parental engagement in children’s academic lives by encouraging Tennessee families to read together for at least 20 minutes each day. During her lunch visit to the C.E. Weldon Public Library in Martin, Mrs. Haslam encouraged participation in the program by reading aloud to children and donating copies of the E.B. White classic Charlotte’s Web – the August Book of the Month – to the library.

“Literacy is so important for the future of our state, and learning can never start too early,” said Mrs. Haslam. “The Imagination Library program begins at birth, so Tennessee families can start off on the right foot.”

In concert with the READ20 initiative, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps children develop a love for reading and learning from birth. Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library mails a new, age-appropriate, high-quality book every month to registered children, from birth until age five – at no cost to the family and regardless of income. All 407,000 of the state’s children under age five have access to the Imagination Library. To date, over 15 million books have been delivered since the program began in October 2004.

“Tennessee is fortunate to have the Imagination Library as a unique resource to prepare children for a bright future,” said Mrs. Haslam. “Children who participate in the program are better prepared for school. Even further, participation in the program is associated with increased time parents spend reading with children, levels of interest in books, and parental awareness of reading levels.”

Mrs. Haslam has participated in other events throughout the state this summer to encourage participation in her book club, including visits to minor-league baseball games and military bases. For the month of August, she will be traveling to some of Tennessee’s more rural communities to highlight the importance of reading proficiency to academic success.

“With her READ20 Family Book Club and Neighborhood Knocks initiative, the First Lady has traveled across the state encouraging families to read together and parents to get involved in their children’s education,” said Ms. Carl. “The Imagination Library is a wonderful resource to help parents do just that, from the very day a child is born.”

Among U.S. states with active Imagination Library programs, Tennessee stands alone as the only state with participation in every one of its 95 counties. The GBBF works to increase enrollment in the program, estimating that close to 200,000 eligible children (age five and under) are not yet registered.

“We’re working diligently to continue spreading the word about this amazing program, which is a gift of up to 60 brand new books for every child in the state of Tennessee, from birth until age five – all at no cost to families,” said Ms. Carl. “Imagination Library programs like those in Weakley and Lake Counties are helping create a generation of kids who will be better prepared to excel and achieve from the first day of school.”

Currently, 44 percent of Tennessee third graders are reading on grade level. Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out later.

In a recent study conducted by the Urban Child Institute, research showed that programs like the Imagination Library lead to early childhood language development, school readiness, grade progression, on-time graduation and college attendance.

For more information about the READ20 Family Book Club visit,, follow @Read20TN on Twitter, or go to your local public library.

About the GBBF:  The mission of the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation is to sustain and strengthen Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in all 95 Tennessee counties, ensuring that new, age-appropriate books are mailed to Tennessee’s preschool children, at no cost to the family and regardless of income. To learn how to support your county’s Imagination Library program, or for information on how to register a child, visit,, or call toll-free at 1-877-99-BOOKS.


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